April 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      
Blog powered by Typepad

« Wal-Mart and Social Capital | Main | Keynes Has Entered The Building »


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Multi-disciplinary NOT Interdisciplinary:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Boy you must have had a great dean at Oakland in order to have had such a congenial place to start your career! ;)

YES I did!!! Much better looking and smarter than his son. His son has never recognized my genius and keeps confusing my original titles with his less original ones.

Yes, I could not agree more. That is part of the reason why I am wading through calculus books, upgrading my understanding of microeconomics, and planning to enroll in the graduate (micro)economics series beginning in the fall.

I do consider myself as mostly interested in applying the spontaneous order approach to issues such as child welfare and community recovery. But I have not been able to get through to anyone. The reason for this is that I do not have an adequate foundation in microeconomics. And I do not have an adequate understanding of microeconomics because I elected to eschew math beyond a certain level, which I am now looking to upgrade.

Look at papers/books by Hayek, Marx, Swedberg, Weber, Elster, Lavoie, Rothbard, Mises, J. Coleman, Buchanan, McCloskey, Olson, V./E. Ostrom, Tullock, Sowell, yourself, Coyne, Storr, Leeson, Horwitz, Hoppe, etc. All of the aforementioned have/had a firm understanding of microeconomics and the rational actor analytic. And THAT is what allows their work to appeal to manifold audiences.

Yes, that's it. A firm disciplinary foundation coupled with intellectual curiosity. As Mancur Olson was quoted in Swedberg (1990), "One reason for my choices about what to study and to read over the years has been the observation that the economists who do the work that is of the most value to those outside the discipline are those who have the deepest understanding of economics itself. If a person can ultimately reach the point where the hypothetico-deductive reasoning of the discipline becomes part of the software of his mind, he will naturally use this capability on a vast array of problems. Then there is good chance that he will generate results that prove valuable to people outside his discipline."

Great post...

I, myself, am going into medicine/infectious disease research but I find myself with a curious love for economics as well.

I hope I will able to be multidisciplinary in these two subjects (being interdisciplinary would be too much to hope for because the worlds are too far apart, I think).


I am truly not trying to go looking for insults here, but this part seemed odd:

===And finally, when you would talk to economists they would say "yes, he write a lot of economics, but it isn't really good, but I understand he is a great historian."===

Say what you will about Salerno, Hulsmann, Walter Block, ..., but they are definitely economists. So what are you proving here? That Rothbard wasn't able to impress practictioners of mainstream economics, a field that he thought was inherently flawed.

I realize this is an old argument between Kirznerians and Rothbardians, but I just wanted to underscore the premise of your argument. If the goal is to get tenure at MIT, then yes, your students should write like economists at MIT.

But if you feel passionately that that is awful (or very very limited) economics, the advice isn't as straightforward.

By the same token, Tom Woods is definitely a historian, and he is very fond of Rothbard's historical work. So when you say, "Ask historians what they think..." it means, "Ask historians who hate Rothbard's approach what they think of his work, and guess what? They don't like it."

Let's assume for the sake of argument that someone were a genius and made really important, fundamental contributions in various disciplines. Wouldn't his (or her) treatment be similar to what happened to Rothbard?

(Note that I am not claiming that IS what happened to Rothbard, because I don't consider myself a master of philosophy, history, etc. But I think he is a very good economist, and I think Mises was a tremendous economist who never got respect from the profession.)


Just to clarify, really, I "get" what you are saying about Rothbard. His work does not start off as a blank slate, and then by the end he weighs the evidence and decides, "It would appear in this instance that the agents of the State behaved ungentlemanly."

But nonetheless I think you are overstepping when you write:

===Now those of us who already agree with him, might find him a great economist, philosopher and historian, but his contributions fall between the cracks because those in the respective fields don't find his work up to the standards of their field.===

You're making it sound as if hey, I'm an anarcho-capitalist already, and so of course I love to hear Rothbard's non-rigorous preaching. But on the contrary, the only *reason* I'm an anarcho-capitalist is because of Rothbard's work.

And in his earlier days, Rothbard *could* hold his own in the neoclassical field. His understanding of expected utility theory (in his "Reconstruction" essay) was better than all but one of the Theory "majors" in my class at NYU. (The one exception is me, ha ha.)

So again, if you're saying that Rothbard was not an exemplary publisher of neoclassical economics, OK great, I agree with you. But he wasn't trying to do that. I don't understand why you so casually allow Samuelson to define what an economist is.

One caveat: Watch out for diletantism.


Mises did get respect --- he was the Distinguished Fellow of the AEA!!!

I am allowing the mainstream of economics define what is the standard of economic argument. That is who we have to talk to, if we want to succeed in the economics profession. Just as we have to communicate with the mainstream of history, politics, and philosophy. So I am imposing that standard.

Remember the idea here is to track truth and have a professional influence --- not just talk to one another.

My point about Rothbard was simple --- how many people who are trained economists who aren't already predisposed to his position would come over to his position. How would his presentation of expected utility theory play with your classmates? How would his explanation of the Great Depression play with Ben Bernanke or Peter Temin? Would they be compelled to rethink their own position in light of his work?

I don't know why my point is being misunderstood by you. I personally think the world of Joe Salerno and Mario Rizzo (to give two examples), but I wouldn't use them as examples of what we are trying to accomplish in terms of being persuasive. Instead, I would say, Ed Glaeser --- is our argument persuasive to Ed Glaeser or Andrei Shleifer? If not, then perhaps time to go back to the drawing board and rethink how we are doing this as economists.

The point is to follow the old Christian motto of "being in the world, but not of the world" --- in this instance, the upper-levels of academic discourse in the humanities and social sciences. That is the purpose for which I am suggesting we should be directed. If not, then we are NOT doing academic scholarship --- we are doing something else. That something else could be very important stuff, but we shouldn't pretend that it is academic scholarship.

Why is this such a hard point to communicate to people in our camp?!



My point is to watch out for diletantism. Interdisciplinary work not only falls into cracks, but often exhibits this diletantism that you are warning about. That is why we must be checked by the standards accepted in the discipline we are writing in.

I follow Polanyi here and argue that contributions are judged on 3 levels (2 of which are very conservative):

1. Plausibility to those in the field;
2. Scientific value as judged by those in the field; (a) accuracy of the results; (b) the importance of the claim; and (c) intrinsic interest of the claim to others in the field
3. Originality of the research

(1) and (2) are conservative forces, (3) is potentially revolutionary. Absent 1-3, and claims made are dismissed.

So we need to be serious about (1) and (2) if we hope our ventures we deem as satisfying (3) are every to be deemed a contribution to science.

Again, I ask, why is it so difficult to communicate this point to those within our camp? What is the sociological hang-up? We cannot wall ourselves off from the profession and expect to advance ideas. This is why for years now I have been pushing this book by Randall Collins, The Sociology of Philosophies (Cambridge). For the simple reason that his tale of dead-end philosophies and their sociological practice should be a warning to those within our camp that believe that their is a route to truth-tracking and intellectual advancement outside of the Polanyi type endorsement of the republic of science.


You are spelling dilettantism like a diletant...
Same for Pete...

I'll suggest this.

What you'll learn is that at the frontier and at the highest level there aren't today -- and weren't in the past -- brightly defined "separate disciplines" in the theoretical sense (although there certainly is _today_ at the bureaucratic and guild level.)

Thinks about all the puzzles that science and math throws up, and all the different people who have wrestled with them.

Linguistic puzzles are tackled historically by all sorts of different people in different disciplines -- crisscrossing disciplinary lines.

The calculus and quantum mechanics and Darwinian theory and thermal dynamics and you have it raised many puzzles, tackled by many different people.

Newton and Leibniz created new science and new math at that same time they created new "philosophical" puzzles and new "philosophical" constructions and approaches in math, methodology, metaphysics, etc. They were doing each and very one of these "different" things at the same time.

You see the same in Hayek, in his global brain science/philosophy of mind, and in his economics/philosophy of economics. Darwin ditto. Wittgenstein, ditto.

David Hull contributes to both the advance of Darwinian biology and the "philosophy" of biology of the same time. He's much more influential as a "biologist" than as a philosopher. So what is he, a biologist or a philosopher? Well, in terms of guild structure he's done both. He's mostly philosophy affiliated in tenure and teaching, but mostly biology affiliated as an editor.

In many deep ways academics are blinded and shackled by "disciplinary" boundaries and definitions -- it's blocked intellectual advance in such fields as psychology, linguistics,anthropology, cognitive science, history .. and economics.

Think how anthropology and history have been advanced by allowing in genetics and evolutionary biology -- at some point whole disciplines are transformed when the "meld" or become a fused "multidisciplinary" discipline.

The old academic lines invented by English and German professors 150 and 200 years ago often block progress -- and understanding -- more than they advance science.

So, yes. Publish for different bureaucratic professional communities in academia. But don't blinder off your brain in those same categories.

Otherwise you aren't allowing yourself to advance our understanding, you'll limiting yourself to past, very constricted ways of thinking that often not nearly as good a way of conceiving things than is possible.

Examples -- think of how economists forbid the "non-economic" discipline of "psychology" from it's guild for so many years. These things kinds of were then brought into economics. Now behavioral economics is a mainstay, as is experimental economics. Are these things economics or are they psychology -- and shouldn't we enforce these bureaucratic definitions and boundaries? Doing so doesn't advance our thought or our understanding, does it?

The same goes for the _deeply_ artificial boundary between thinking about good economic explanation, when done by "economists" as "economics" or by "philosophers" as "philosophy". Spent a lot of time thinking about it, most of the time you could not tell what hat he was wearing when he was pushing the envelop and making progress -- he was doing _both_ at once, and that in part is why it was so profound -- same thing happened with Newton and Leibniz and Darwin and Hayek in global brain theory and Edelman in global brain theory, and Wittgenstein in linguistics/logic/philosophy, and on and on and on.

I left a name out here:

"The same goes for the _deeply_ artificial boundary between thinking about good economic explanation, when done by "economists" as "economics" or when done by "philosophers" as "philosophy". _Hayek_ spent a lot of time thinking about it, most of the time you could not tell what hat he was wearing when he was pushing the envelop and making progress -- he was doing _both_ at once, and that in part is why it was so profound."

I should add that Hayek felt he had to justify his advances in the area of good economic explanation -- and he felt he had to justify what folks conceived of as the "philosophy" or "methodology" as much to economists as to philosophers.

The fact is that economists have a build in commitment to an implicit and explicit "philosophy" and "philosophical methodology" as strong as anything advanced by a "philosopher".

Every economists is a philosopher and a "methodologist". Usually a bad one.

If Hayek was more explicit -- and less political -- he might have said that economists who are bad economists are bad economists because they are such bad philosophers and such bad methodologists.

It's really one reason he said that any economists who is just an economist is a bad economist.

I wrote:

"The fact is that economists have a build in commitment to an implicit and explicit "philosophy" and "philosophical methodology" as strong as anything advanced by a "philosopher".

Every economists is a philosopher and a "methodologist". Usually a bad one."

Dear Dr.Boettke,
Surprised to find Amartya Sen in the list of multi-disciplinary scholars. Can you please mention some of his multi-disciplinary reasearch works.
Have Krugman or Stiglitz done any useful multi-disciplinary research?


Pete wrote:

===Why is this such a hard point to communicate to people in our camp?!===

I am going to make a caricature of your position just to make my point more quickly: You are assuming that "our camp" is a fixed thing; there are just a bunch of people out there who came out of the womb thinking like us. And now it's our job to go persuade the very open-minded economists at MIT to rationally weigh the evidence and abandon their rigorous devotion to New Keynesianism.

I think this is totally wrong (and again, I admit that I am exaggerating what your position is). The "choir" to whom you don't want us to preach, is much bigger today because of the efforts of "unprofessional" academics like Rothbard etc.

I think Mises was the best economist of the 20th century. And he didn't even get tenure anywhere, right? OK maybe he was Distinguished Fellow, but few people have even heard of him nowadays, and most of those that do think he is a joke.

So if one thinks that the profession has evolved in a way that it is no longer even capable of doing good economics, I don't see why someone who "believes in" Austrian economics should feel like a failure for not writing a paper good enough for the AER.

Last point: I am not at all second-guessing the advice you are giving to your students. Your kids are doing wonders, and I still can't believe Leeson got his pirate paper into JPE. That's awesome. To repeat, the only thing that really bothered me is your casual identification of "economists" with people whom I think aren't very good economists at all.

Most biologists don't know that David Hull is a philosopher -- I've met graduate students who use and cite his work all the time who are shocked to know he's a "philosopher".

Let's look at Hayek and the old "Rothbard" joke.

Nobel Winner Gerald Edelman read Hayek's _The Sensory Order_, recommended it to his fellow brain scientists at a meeting of the national academy of science, and expressed surprise that Hayek was also an economist.

For a long period of time in the 40s, 50s and 60s, I'm sure lots of philosophers thought of Hayek as an economist, but would say, "yes he writes a lot of philosophy and methodology, and it's very good philosophy, but I understand most everyone rejects his economics."

But if you talked to economists, they would say, "yes, he write a lot of economics, and some of it is the most influential stuff in the discipline, but I understand he his philosophy and methodology is just stuff."

And those of us who already agree with him, might go on to say that, "Hey, we find Hayek to be a great economist, philosopher and global brain scientist, but his contributions fall between the cracks because those in the respective fields don't find his work up to the standards of their field because Hayek's work directly challenged the dominate picture of economic explanation in economics, and the dominate picture of philosophy of science in the philosophy of science, and the dominate picture of global brain science among neuroscientists and philosophers."

Get the point?

The same could be said of Hayek's philosophy of law, his philosophy of action, his philosophy of mind, his picture of scientific explanation, etc.

Get it?

Hayek's work is fundamental in it core -- it essentially challenges the "standards" which rule in economics, philosophy, and some other fields.

Newton did also. Ditto Darwin. Ditto Hayek. Ditto Wittgenstein. Ditto Menger. Ditto Edelman. Ditto Einstein. Ditto Mach. etc.

Ditto Mises.

It happens.

It doesn't mean that Mises is right any more than it meant that Newton was right or Mach, or Darwin. And in some ways all of them got some things wrong. We usually term what they got wrong -- and what we still haven't wrestled to the ground -- "philosophy".

Sorry, left out a word:

"But if you talked to economists, they would say, "yes, he write a lot of economics, and some of it is the most influential stuff in the discipline, but I understand he his philosophy and methodology is just _terrible_ stuff."

Read Samuelson or Friedman on Hayek's methodology, if you want just 2 examples.

Why do certain academics need a blog like this one to regularly engage in self-glorification, in attempts to convince others of their genius?
If the aim is to impress Glaeser and Shleifer why not put the same time and energy into effectively writing papers for the AER?

Note well that Sen is both a "philosopher" and an "economist" with an appointment in both fields, and graduate seminars in both departments.

One more point, Pete, to synthesize my comments with those of Greg: You could understandably say, "Ransom, what the #%# are you talking about? Darwin and Einstein were huge, and professional biologists and physicists now revere them. Not so with Rothbard. Hayek won the Nobel because he was better behaved and disciplined than Murray..."

So what I'm claiming is that precisely because Mises and Rothbard were so brilliant, their work didn't fit into the framework of USA economics in the latter 20th century.

Really, does anyone except those with an understanding of Austrian capital theory really understand what happened with the housing boom and bust? The supply-siders understandably missed it because it shouldn't have happened, given their frameworks. Everything looked great in 2006 from their POV: low inflation, low taxes, etc.

So I'm predicting that 100 years from now, economists then will read Rothbard more than they will read [insert some big gun right now at Harvard or MIT]. I'm not saying they will read a lot of Rothbard, just that he will be more important in 100 years than the guys you want us to convince today.

And furthermore, I don't necessarily agree that trying to persuade the gatekeepers of today is the best strategy to influence economists in 100 years. Maybe it is, but you are just asserting that as if it's self-evident.

I think one problem here Pete is that you don't realize how much email etc. I am getting because of all these bailouts etc. There are lots of business people and regular Joes emailing me and saying, "I stumbled upon your stuff because of Peter Shiff/Ron Paul/Lew Rockwell/whatever and can't believe how useless my undergrad econ classes were..."

So to repeat, I'm not knocking your advice, and obviously with division of labor it makes sense for you to tell people how to get good jobs at highly ranked universities, whereas maybe it makes more sense for me to focus on getting the word out to the unwashed masses.

Yes, I believe this is indeed the right criterion. Whose work will still be read in 50 or 100 years from now? Very mathematical economic work - unless it is really good math - will almost certainly no longer be read because mathematical techniques evolve, change; what is in line with today´s fads and fashions will no longer be tomorrow etc...
The aim of science is to know reality, Mises said, but that is certainly not the aim of many professional economists, professional journals etc.
The function of a typical professional journal is signaling, i.e. allowing people to signal how smart they are, to permit them find a better paid job etc. This is not _necessarily_ at odds with the aims of science, but in the present social and political context it often is...


Look my position (might be flawed) is very blunt. I am not sure it is an assertion, since I pointed out the empirical evidence from Collins, etc. We will not advance as a school of economic ideas unless we have people occupying positions in the top academic institutions, publishing in the top journals, editing the top journals, publishing books with the top university presses, editing book series with the top presses, pushing graduate students to top position so they can pursue the same path.

Blogs aren't going to work, alternative presses aren't going to work, etc. It is still about teaching at Harvard, Chicago, Stanford, et. al., publishing in the AER, JPE, QJE, and with Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton and Chicago. And there is a pecking order starting from that and working out.

Now how can I hold such an extreme view? Because I honestly believe that economic science only advances within the academic discussion. And I care about economic scholarship and science.

Now if you ask me about economic policy discussion. I am 110% on board with you. We can have multiple avenues outside of the traditional PhD program, and academic journal publishing, etc.
And I know that you are doing an outstanding job of reaching thousands of individudals. I don't. And I also don't succeed by the standards I am setting for myself.

You are much more successful at doing what you want to do than I am in what I want to do. I applaud you for that and in fact envy you and your ability to be effective in your chosen field of economic communication.

I think Russ Roberts is doing a great job with EconTalk, I think Tyler Cowen is doing a great job with his NYT column and Marginal Revolution, and I think you and others with the Mises Institute are doing an outstanding tapping into the groundswell of support for economic liberty that Ron Paul's campaign ignited. Just as Henry Hazlitt did great things in his day communicated economic ideas to interested laymen, so today we have several voices doing that sort of work. It is not work I am focused on, but I certainly have the highest of respect for it.

I just think it would be a mistake to argue that Henry Hazlitt actually advanced economic science and scholarship.

Sorry for the prolonged discussion on this.



My objection is that your proposed approach would seriously distort the Austrian research program. There is a reason why Austrian economics has not made much headway in academia --- professional economists don't care about what Mises said. If you want to sit at the same lunch table with these guys, then don't expect to remain an Austrian.

Austrians talk about Mises' evenly rotating economy, disequilibrium prices, sheer ignorance, discovery, roundabout and heterogenous capital, etc. No person at Harvard writing for AER will want to hear this stuff.

I am saddened by your conviction that you are actuall advancing Austrian economics by believing in this approach. Hayek is probably the most successful Austrian economist there ever will be. And look what happened to him when he decided to step out of the Austrian literature: he was ignored.

Pete Leeson has a lot of promise. But his success will not be on account of his Austrian credentials. You can take that to the bank!

Austrian economics or academic success? Which will it be? (You can only choose one.)

Edmond and Bob,

Please give me a list of the economists you think wrote the best works on foundational issues in economics that were not at the top of their profession given the standards of their day?

Remember Mises was a world-famous scholar in economics by the time he wrote Socialism. J. B. Say was recognized as a leading economist. Mathlus? Ricardo? Mill? Whatley? Wicksteed? Menger? Wicksell? Wieser? Bohm-Bawerk?

Who is it that you would list as these great economists who we read 100 years later, but who weren't considered important economic thinkers (even if they disagree with them) by their peers?

I agree with you that the goal should be to be read years from now, not necessarily today. But I wonder how many examples we can come up with of economists who weren't read in their day, but we read today with great benefit.



Why is it so easy for you to make that claim? I have been a professor at NYU, a fellow at Stanford, a visiting professor at the LSE (twice, and just got invited to do another visit), and been on doctoral dissertations at U of Paris, Stockholm School of Economics, etc. In every one of these instances, it was my Austrianism that represented the main selling point for me.

It is just not right to make the claims you are making. If one does good work in economics, then one will be recognized. If one doesn't do good work, then one doesn't get recognized. I haven't made the most of the opportunities I have been given professionally not because of some bias against Austrianism, but becuase of failings of myself as a scholar/scientist. I lost a dream job when I was ultimately rejected for a professorship at BU in 1996 at the last minute by the economics department. But the reality is that I didn't do as well a job writing and presenting the paper I gave at the faculty seminar. That paper was published in an Italian journal. I revisted that paper with the help of Pete and Chris (who are much better than I am at executing ideas) and we published in a better journal. Still not the top journals.

All I am arguing is that IF you value Austrian economics as a scientific/scholarly research program you want to maximize its professional influence. Thus, you need to work hard to advance that set of ideas in the profession. To claim that professional advancement is inconsistent with the advancement of Austrian ideas is to guarantee that Austrian economics will stagnate and will not impact the professional conversation.

BTW, Pete and I have had conversations about Mises with economists as diverse and well known as Doug North, Mancur Olson, James Buchanan, Gary Becker, Milton Friedman, Axel Leijonhufvud, Harold Demsetz, Warren Samuels, Kenneth Boulding, Albert Hirschman, Robert Heilbroner, John Kenneth Galbraith, Herbert Simon, Kenneth Arrow, Andrei Shleifer, Avner Greif, Joel Mokyr, Deirdre McCloskey, etc. Why do you say that you cannot discuss Mises with professional economists?


Note well that I'm not challenging Boettke's point as a matter of career strategy or even paradigm shift strategy.

I'm challenging it as a bit of economic science / philosophy -- it misleads people about the various roles of "standards" in economics (and philosophy) and the nature of the contest of ideas when it comes to those standards.

Hayek work is essentially saying that the scientific standards of economics need to change in order for the discipline to advance as knowledge and as a way to understand the world -- Bruce Caldwell talks about economists repeatedly "catching up" to were Hayek was 50, 60 years ago in all sorts of areas.

We've seen philosophers, psychologists, brain scientists, etc. doing the same thing over the last 50 and 60 years.

Joaquin Fuster the UCLA brain scientists, doesn't think the neuroscientists are as far as Hayek yet. Caldwell doesn't seem to think the economists (in important ways) are as far as Hayek.

One reason they are not is because economists are trapped in the old "boxes" and the old standards telling us what "economics" is -- and what "science" is, and what "knowledge" is, etc. Hayek blew up many of those boxes. Many power holding folks in economics and philosophy are dead set on the old standards and the old pictures of "economics" and "science" and "philosophy" -- and they can't imagine thinking things differently.

That is a problem of "talking to your peers" that Boettke is ignoring.

Hayek was at the L.S.E. and had trouble talking with his peers -- and even had trouble getting graduate students and fellow staffers to understand him. (Hayek's _The Pure Theory of Capital_ and his _Collectivist Economic Planning_ are chock full of remarks and footnotes documenting the misunderstandings of his graduate students and fellow faculty members and other peers).

I 100% agree with Boettke's strategic point.

Again, what I wish to flag is the misleading picture of the task -- and of "economics" and "philosophy" and the nature of the growth of knowledge.

Pete, ever heard of John Rae?

Peter wrote:

"Please give me a list of the economists you think wrote the best works on foundational issues in economics that were not at the top of their profession given the standards of their day?"

To repeat. I AGREE with Peter's strategic point and his point about the vital importance of doing top of the line mainstream at the top mainstream universities.

I think every Hayek interested grad student in econ should be at Harvard or Chicago or MIT or Princeton doing whatever the very most fashionable or promising thing is that the very best graduate adviser is interest in, and that also interest you.

And I'm not kidding.

Philosophy grad students should do the same thing.


It is an "essential tension" as Kuhn pointed out. I agree with you about the debate over standards. But I think one needs to argue on two levels --- debate over standards, and debate given a set of standards. The tension is that it will only be those who have proven their worth within the existing standards who will be able to challenge the standards.

I discuss this issue in my essay on James Buchanan and the Rebirth of Political Economy in the Pressman and Holt, ed. book on dissent in economics.

So I both agree with you and with me (not as a strategic point, but as a point of how we prepare ourselves to engage the battle over standards). It is Kuhn's "essential tension" that only an outsider with an insiders claim to credibility can pull off the shift in standards.


John Rae's work was picked up and taught at Oxford by Senior.

But let me give you that 1. Lets get some others.


I think this is mostly true, but not exactly.

Everything becomes more bureaucratic and complex and ossified as we advance.

But even a 100 years ago a punk like Ludwig Wittgenstein came in and bugged Russell with a few questions, then spent some time in a trench, then came back and completely upended everything in the world of logic and philosophy. He then went to teach elementary school kids -- and came back and did it all again.

Not everyone is is Wittgenstein, and it's a different time. But is happens.

A similar story can be told of Karl Popper.

Economics is different that philosophy. But "edge" people still change economics, whether through power, or money, or genius, or whatever.

Economics isn't yet embedded in concrete.

I've run into top 10 department philosophers who think no good philosophy can come from anyone who doesn't have a degree from a top 5 program -- but the truth is the field is continually changed by people who don't have that background. It doesn't happen often, but both of my major professors did it. Larry Wright did it in a big way. A little different than your point, but a vector on the same theme.

Peter writes.

"It is an "essential tension" as Kuhn pointed out. I agree with you about the debate over standards. But I think one needs to argue on two levels --- debate over standards, and debate given a set of standards. The tension is that it will only be those who have proven their worth within the existing standards who will be able to challenge the standards."

Two more for the list: Ronald Coase and John Nash.

"Please give me a list of the economists you think wrote the best works on foundational issues in economics that were not at the top of their profession given the standards of their day?"

Neither Coase nor Nash work. Coase was at UVA when he wrote his famous FTC paper and his Problem of Social Cost paper. UVA was a top 10 department at the time. He moved to U of Chicago Law School and was the editor of the Journal of Law and Economics. He wrote his famous paper on The Firm as part of his studies when he was finish at the LSE and then his first teaching job. That paper was published in a top journal of the time, and was included in the 1950s (prior to his Social Cost work) in the AEA Readings on The Firm.

Nash wrote his paper at Princeton and then developed additional papers while at MIT.

"But I wonder how many examples we can come up with of economists who weren't read in their day, but we read today with great benefit."

Does Bill Hutt count, or was it only a light-hearted complaint that he had been forgotten in his own lifetime?

What about folk like Cantillon who dropped out of sight and had to be re-discovered?

Hutt coined the term "consumer sovereignty" --- how forgotten could he be? He published in top journals. I remember once talking to P T Bauer and I mentioned to him about being neglected, and he looked at me and said, "who was neglected?" "People read me, they just disagree with me." That is how I view Hutt, when I consider his books and the journals he published in. He was not quite as successful as P T Bauer, but he certainly was not neglected.

Cantillon is a better example, but then again, why and how did he get rediscovered? Like Rae, it requires a major player to find the work useful. It is not outsiders that can make a work considered valuable.


"Neither Coase nor Nash work."

Nash was not an economist. QED.

If you listen to Coase tell his story, it does work.

Coase's "The Nature of the Firm" was 1937.

Pete said:

===I just think it would be a mistake to argue that Henry Hazlitt actually advanced economic science and scholarship.===

OK I am partially responsible for steering this conversation down different paths. I'm going back to my original point: I'm not saying Henry Hazlitt advanced economic science, I'm saying Murray Rothbard did.

And you explicitly denied that. You actually said that he did bad economics, or rather, that professional economists agree that Rothbard did bad economics.

===Remember Mises was a world-famous scholar in economics by the time he wrote Socialism.===

OK I will take your word for it. So then, on your reading, what happened is that Mises stagnated after he wrote Socialism, while the profession left him behind? Mises started out as a promising economist, but then he stalled and stopped producing good economics in the 1930s?

Rather than explain it that way, I would instead say that Mises continued to crank out great stuff, and wrote the single most important book on economics of the century in the 1940s. The fact that he was a nobody at that time just showed how off-track the profession had veered.

And so now at this point, economists have to decide how much time they want to spend rehabilitating their peers at MIT, and how much they want to spend advancing "good" economics in the RAE etc.

As always, let me repeat that in the interest of brevity I am exaggerating the differences between our positions. I'm not suggesting that you, Ben Powell, etc. stop submitting articles to mainstream journals.

By the same token, much of what I do for think tanks is general "free market" stuff, not related to roundabout capital structure.

And what did the economists do with UVA? They dismantled it -- the department wasn't _scientific_. (See Yeager and Buchanan on this topic, among others).

They didn't want to listen to Coase and Buchanan and the rest.

I know it's a bit beyond what you are talking about, but non-economists such as Warren Weaver, the money behind the Cowles Commission, the Rand people, the Navy Dept. people, Rockefeller people other than Weaver, etc. did a good bit to transform the foundational core of economics.

Pete wrote:

===Cantillon is a better example, but then again, why and how did he get rediscovered? Like Rae, it requires a major player to find the work useful. It is not outsiders that can make a work considered valuable.===

Well now you're getting into tautologies. If I'm right, and Rothbard may be rediscovered by economists in 100 years, then obviously *at that time* it will be the professional economists who rediscover him.

You're saying the best way to keep Austrian economics alive is to keep translating it into terms the mainstream will appreciate, whereas I'm saying it's possible that Austrians should publish "Austrian" economics in their own journals and books and conferences, and sure while they're at it they can try to make a career out of working at a big school and getting papers published in mainstream journals.

OK I promise, last post on this Pete, and the one that will really clinch whether you and I have a fundamental disagreement on this:

I claim that Israel Kirzner and Mario Rizzo are much much better economists than 50% of the faculty teaching at the Ivy League schools. If I'm reading your position correctly, you would be forced to say that, by the only sensible criterion available to us, my judgment is wrong. It is as if I said Tolstoy and Steinbeck were awful writers. (I.e. who the heck am I to challenge the consensus of true literary experts.)

Look Bob and Greg, there are a lot of factual claims being bounced around, and a lot of interpretations.

1. The economics department at UVA was not dismantled by the economics faculty, but by the adminstration.

2. Nash was one of the top mathematicians in the world and game theory was on the edge of economics since the 1940s

3. I never said Rothbard was a bad economist, I said his contributions fell between cracks.

4. Rizzo and Kirzner are (were) tenured professors at a top 20 department of economics. Rizzo has published in the top law and economics journals; Kirzner has published in the JPE and the Journal of Economic Literature --- both have published books with Chicago, etc. They played the game, played it on their own terms, yet succeeded. By any rendering tenure in a top 20 department is the brass ring of academics.

5. I consider Mises the greatest economist of all time, so no I did not claim that he was done by Socialism. Human Action is an unbelievable work. But it was also reviewed in the NYT (such a powerful and recognized thinker he was).

Bottom line, I think we should all be attempting to communicate the basic insights of the economic way of thinking to as wide an audience as possible. Small but essential audience is other professional economists. I think it is important to talk and ultimately impact this group of economic scholars and teachers. Are there other important audiences? Of course, there are --- laymen, policy community, others who happen to believe in the truth claims and the ideological importance of the ideas of Mises and Hayek. But I am just saying we should confuse these activities.

The Economics of Time & Ignorance, or Competition and Entrepreneurship, are fundamentally different exercises than when Prychitko and I revise and update The Economic Way of Thinking. And the presentation of economics in The Economic Way of Thinking is different than when I am writing an article for a professional journal. And all of these are different from when I write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, or the Christian Science Monitor. And blogging is something altogether different.

My ultimate goal would be for people to write articles like Mises's 1920 paper, but in the AER (his original article was published in the leading German language periodical). It clearly is possible --- Bruce Caldwell had an extensive article on Hayek and socialism in the JEL, White and Selgin had a JEL survey on free banking, and Kirzner had a JEL survey on the entrepreneurial market process. The Austrian contribution has been discussed in the Journal of Economic Perspectives and the Journal of Economic Literture on many ocassions since I earned my PhD. The Economic Journal has published papers by Kevin Dowd as well as George Selgin, and even a very unconventional paper which Chris and I were authors on dealing with philosphy and econonmics. White, Garrison, O'Driscoll all got papers in the AER or JPE. Leeson isn't the first person, though his paper was special for a vareity of reasons.

Finally, I refuse to agree with both of you about the oblivion in which we practice our economics. I deny this. Chris's book was published by Stanford, Pete has a forthcoming book with Princeton. The Austrian school is engaged with the broader profession and given its hearing. Having people disagree with you is not the same as having people ignore you. Krugman doesn't ignore Austrian economics, he just disagrees. de Long doesn't ignore Austrian economics, he just disagrees. Cowen doesn't ignore the Austrians, he just disagrees with many aspects and is persuaded by a few insights.

Being ignored is far worse than being dismissed as wrong. At least when one is dismissed, an argument has to be produced in which case you can respond. And in responding you are engaged in the professional discussion.

I reject the "oblivion" idea, so count me out in the following:

"Finally, I refuse to agree with both of you about the oblivion in which we practice our economics."

I knew that it was the administration that did in the econ. department at UVA -- but behind that you're talking something like the weight of the whole discipline and especially the math economics community against Coase's and Buchanan's in the econ. department.

The administration was responding to the market -- especially the market for economists among _economists_ in the research funding community and at the "better schools", etc.

I won't say anything more about Nash, and will say again that we fundamentally agree on strategy, if we are talking strategy by economists among economists.

I do disagree with this, however.

DeLong and Cowen write on Hayek as if they were legitimate historians of economic thought when it comes to Hayek -- for a popular audience.

They are nothing of the kind.

Even their academic work on Hayek has a great deal to be desired -- as scholars like Larry White and Leland Yeager, and Larry Sechrest and Barkley Rosser, Jr. in peer reviewed articles keep proving.

Much of what DeLong writes on Hayek is an embarrassment.

Cowen writes false or misleading stuff about Hayek even when his own book proves he should know better, e.g. portraying Hayek as asserting a central bank causal source claim, when what Hayek is actually providing the micro of a transmission mechanism that could be expressed though many different causal chains. And Hayek's work is full of risk and changing perceptions of risk -- and Cowen seems to claim all this territory for himself, with the suggestion that none of it is in Hayek. No, Hayek didn't apply the formal stuff of modern financial theory and modern real business cycle theory to various problems, but my understanding is that neither did Cowen. There are certainly some of these same themes raised by Cowen in Hayek, so why the misleading suggestions in Cowen that Hayek and the ABCT are all about simply the central bank as cause, and that anything to do with real causes or risk is "non-Hayekian" or non-Austrian. What is that about?

Again, this is especially bothersome when Cowen is writing for a popular audience on his blog.

People like Rosser and Yeager and Sechrest call Cowen on it when he does it in print, but what about on the blog?

>>"de Long doesn't ignore Austrian economics, he just disagrees. Cowen doesn't ignore the Austrians, he just disagrees with many aspects and is persuaded by a few insights."<<

Let me add this. You write:

"de Long doesn't ignore Austrian economics, he just disagrees."

The quality of DeLong's work on Hayek suggests to me that he ignores it.

You also write this:

"Cowen doesn't ignore the Austrians, he just disagrees with many aspects and is persuaded by a few insights."

Sorry if I find it hard to see where Cowen has really very deeply engaged work by some like, say, Hayek.

His book mainly addresses constructions and passages from Rothbard. The few footnotes to Hayek don't engage many "aspects" of Hayek's work -- not many at _all_.

People can have their own interests. Cowen can have his. Differences of taste often explain much more than whether someone is "persuaded" by something or not. Where's the evidence that Cowen ever had much of a taste for _The Pure Theory of Capital_ or _Monetary Theory and the Trade Cycle_?

I haven't seen much of an argument for or against that work -- more an expression of a taste for some insights by real business cycle theorists and modern finance sort of thought about in contrast to some baby Rothbard.

And I am aware that Cowen has some real issues with Mises and Rothbard on the evenly rotating economy.

I have issues with their construction myself.

Why accept the AER, JPE, and QJE as being the most prestigious journals in economics? Why not take a more entrepreneurial perspective, for example by publishing the best Austrian papers in the RAE rather than in the JPE, JLE, and persuade some of the "respected" good economists with a sympathetic attitude (V Smith, D North et al.) to also publish in the RAE. It seems as if PB publishes good but not great papers in his journal, perhaps regarding it as wasteful to publish an Austrian paper in the RAE if it could get published by the AER! Now I know that Dan Klein claims that Thompson Scientific (SSCI) and such organizations discriminate against journals with classical liberal or libertarian tendencies, and that may well be true - but only up to a point (Econ Journal Watch did get in). A similar argument could be made about departments. Actually, I have met several non-Austrian economics professors outside of the US who consider GMU to be at the very top, although I'm not sure to what extent it reflects its relative Austrian content.

I'm thinking that the disagreement between Pete Boettke and the others might reflect patience, i.e. time preference. Fast success, and you need to publish in the AER etc. If you take the long view, it doesn't seem to matter where you publish, as long as the intrinsic quality is good enough.

Krugman has so much as said that he ignores Austrian economics.

He says he has no time to waste on prose economics, most especially anything written "in the past".

He was pretty much talking in the context of Hayek and Austrian economics when he said this.

Pete wrote:

"Krugman doesn't ignore Austrian economics, he just disagrees."

The evidence that Krugman has read Hayek is pretty bare.

And Krugman's assertion that Hayek has never contibuted anything to economic thought pretty much prove that Krugman know no history of economic thought -- and little about the intellectual background of most of his fellow Nobel winners.

Geez it's getting late. Make that:

And Krugman's assertion that Hayek has never contibuted anything to economic thought pretty much proves that Krugman knows no history of economic thought -- and little about the intellectual background of most of his fellow Nobel winners.

Come on, guys. How complicated is this? If you want to contribute to the scholarly tradition, your voice must be heard. It's pretty much impossible for your voice to be heard if you don't have success within a discipline, which means you must pass internal disciplinary standards of merit. It's not clear if we have any real exceptions to this rule, but certainly any exceptions are rare. If you throw a scholar into the disciplinary water, he must choose whether to swim.

I think Pete and Bob are both right. If you can popularize an economic science on the grassroots level, like Ron Paul/LRC are doing, it will get greater exposure in future academics circles.

I wonder how many future Austrian economists Ron Paul and blogs like these are creating? Take a look at this site: yaliberty.org. I happen to write for this blog as well as many other young Americans interested in Austrian economics and economic liberty. These people will be going on to graduate schools in economics and political science. Perhaps even at the top schools.

Peter - please keep trying to advance the field intellectually now, and it'll make it a much smoother transition for the next generation. If nothing else, the upcoming crop of grad students needs its thesis mentors to get started.

As the Ron Paul supporters say, there's a revolution brewing (helped along by Robert Murphy, for sure) but it's an intellectual one in addition to a political one.

I'll throw in my 2 cents as a layman. I appreciate Dr. Boettke leadership in academia but even I could get a sense of his lament in Brian Doherty's Radicals for Capitalism. I do think it will continue to be an uphill battle for Austrians in academia due to the institutional incentives.

Academia is almost completely funded by the state and is under pressure to provide relevant research to policymakers. "Let the market handle and here's why" may be great for the truth seeker but doesn't really contribute to the state's or policymaker's sense of "doing something". The only other time they care is when there's a crisis and their paradigm disintegrates before their eyes.

Look at the stagflation of the '70's. All the debates and research were rendered moot and then some lay reader of Austrian economics and graduate of vaunted Eureka College obtained the levers of power. Suddenly free markets were given a hearing and even the gold standard was up for debate. Another anecdote...look at your colleague Brad Delong. What prompted him to finally read Mises' Theory of Money and Credit? Not gentle persuasion or the earnest devotion and professionalism of Austrian academics. No, it was: JOE THE !?@%% PLUMBER!! A political minion that threatened "HIS GUY". While I appreciate and laud Dr. Beottke immensely I think too much faith is put in the academic's thirst for truth.

That's why I feel the strident uncompromising Austrianism at LvMI is so important. It serves as a repository for when people do seek guidance. It's there with an undiluted and, yes, annoying voice. When the consequences of this latest spate of Keynesianism come to fruition the people will have a place to turn to and Dr. Boettke and others may then obtain the respect and resources by their institutions to further the academic Austrian research program.

Finding one's place in that transition is important. Between Daniel Klein's paper "Mere Libertarianism" and Lew Rockwell's "rants" there are some insights that I think may apply to advancing pure Austrian economics in academia that also apply to problems in advancing libertarian political theory acceptance.


I agree with you about academics' interest in truth...total truth.

Guys like DeLong and Krugman are proud men with reputations built on their work. They have a built in incentive to appear right and ridicule those whose insights would undermine their own.

Pride does play a role. It's human nature.

To answer Pete´s question, Marx was a good example to the contrary, moreover comparable to the Austrians, since he explicitly challenged "the politically correct" of his day. Pete´s view is simplistic since it ignores the role of "the terror of the politically correct". It may be understandable, however, since apparently the RAE has now reached the status of an establishment journal...

Marx? OK, lets get serious. First, we didn't really have an economics profession at the time. Second, Marx was an internationally known thinker both in his life-time and certainly even more so shortly after his death. And he became a source used at the highest levels of professional discussion by the late 19th century.

So again, I am not sure what intellectual universe people are occupying.

Koppl seems to be the only one who gets it. Re-read his comment. It is not really complicated.

Finally, the RAE serves a role and I am personally proud of the work we do with the journal (for one of the readers who made a comment about getting big names involved look at the journal, Vernon Smith and James Buchanan have published in the journal as well as several other significant thinkers in their field, e.g., Rob Axtel, and Tim Besley (forthcoming)). But the RAE is not the AER. Austrian economics will advance when those who work within that paradigm publish not in the RAE, but in the AER working still within that paradigm. It is not about talking about getting in the journals within the paradigm of some of more fashionable trend, but doing work clearly within the Austrian paradigm, but done so well that it is viewed as a valuable contribution by one's professional peers.

Again, Koppl gets it --- others not. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that Koppl is living it, others aren't.

BTW, this says absolutely NOTHING about whether we should or shouldn't be engaged in activities outside of professional academic economics. In my opinion, the role of the economist in society includes not only scientific work, but teaching and a host of educational activities to the general public and policy community. As Henry Simons put it our role is to provide a "prophalaytic against popular fallacies". So I value the full range of activites that have been represented here and the people who have been cited, what I want to insist on however is the simple point that Koppl makes --- we cannot confuse the activities with one another, and we have to be careful in our understanding of the complimentarities in the activities.

One final point, I agree that there are questions of "political correctness", but I actually think in economics many in our camp overstate this. Economics is not literature or history in this respect. When I was denied tenure at NYU, it had nothing to do with my libertarian perspective. It had a lot to do with my methodological proclivities, and my inability to publish high quality work in the best outlets in the profession. All my junior faculty peers were held to the same standard.

So lets get serious --- we want to populate the world of economics with Austrian economists, to do that we need to have students get PhDs and teaching jobs at educational institutes of higher learning. We need more faculty teaching in PhD programs (how many are there Edmond?!), we need more students writing dissertations and getting jobs themselves, and we need to place them in better quality institutions --- anyone against having an Austrian on the faculty at Williams or Amherst? If an Austrian got a position at Chicago, should he/she turn it down?

Absent a full blown Austrian, it makes sense to have thinkers who are at least sympathetic teaching in high quality PhD programs. How do you find them?

If SOMEBODY can give me an alternative to what Koppl wrote, I am all ears --- but don't tell me that the way to do that is to have Ron Paul talk about the ABCT on the campaign trail. That is great, but it does not impact what we are talking about.

"What you'll learn is that at the frontier and at the highest level there aren't today -- and weren't in the past -- brightly defined "separate disciplines" in the theoretical sense..."

Greg, it is precisely at the highest level that there is the sharpest theoretical distinction between disciplines -- in fact, the whole progress of disciplines consists in their differentiation. See Collingwood's _Idea of History_ for a book length treatment of history's effort to emancipate itself from other disciplines.

Yes, Marx. I am bloody serious, and I have had some great Marxist professors. The relevant dividing line here is not between "scientific" Austrianism and "unscientific" Austrianism. It is betwwen pro-establishment, politically correct Asutrianism, and anti-establishment, politically incorrect (or less correct) Austrianism. The crucial question here is: is a revolutionary science possible? I would think it is, and true Austrianism now fulfills the function Marxism once fulfilled. The crucial fact about Pete is that he wants to please the establishment. Some points of view, theories etc. are simply rejected not because they are unscientific but because they are taboo from an establishment viewpoint, in other words because they are not politically correct. The case for 100% reserve banking, as established by Rothbard, De Soto etc. is a case in point; more generally true libertarianism is illustrative.
There is nothing that deserves our respect less than a pro-establishment social scientist.

And Koppl is just another little pro-establishment parvenu economist... Totally unimpressive...

"Who is it that you would list as these great economists who we read 100 years later, but who weren't considered important economic thinkers (even if they disagree with them) by their peers?"

I don't know about economists, Pete, but it has certainly happened in other sciences. Aristarchus (heliocentrism) was ignored for almost 1500 years. Mendel (genetics) died with his work unrecognized. Wegener (plate tectonics) was laughed at as a crank. Indeed, on the Continent (but not in Britain) Newton was seen as a throwback to discredited Aristotelianism.

So, it happens.

"And Koppl is just another little pro-establishment parvenu economist... Totally unimpressive..."

And Edmond is apparently someone who was not taught the least amount of manners by his parents... Totally unimpressive!

Blablabla... This has nothing to do with manners... Did Marx have manners? Clearly a category mistake!!! This being said, if I have hurt anyone´s feelings I certainly apologize...

Edmond, I agree that none of your posts have anything to do with manners -- I think they keep their distance from manners quite successfully.


Science should hurt, so feelings aren't on the table. I don't want to please the establishment, I want to be the establishment. And remember I have published several essays on "Anarchism as a Progressive Research Program" --- so I don't shy away from holding rather extreme positions and I do so when given the opportunity to present these positions at high profile places such as the LSE, where I originally gave my anarchism paper as part of a 6 lecture series to the graduate students.

Just because you say things doesn't mean they are true. Koppl isn't pro-establishment, he in fact promotes a rather radical challenge to the establishment on epistemic grounds.

BTW, please note that Koppl signs his name to his posts, I sign my name to my posts --- therefore we are out there and subject to refutation in argument and in person, but Edmond I would bet is hiding behind an false identity. I personally find this inability to identify oneself as cowardly and a violation of truth seeking.

Again, I bet the reason Koppl gets it is because he lives the life, I bet the reason Edmond and others don't is because they pretend to be living the life. It really isn't complicated.

To Gene --- I would like to know examples from the 20th century once we have established scientific communities. I realize we haven't have 100 years yet, but we have had 50 years.

With respect to Mises, I simply want to challenge the martyr interpretation ... he had professorships at U of Vienna, in Switz, and at NYU (paid by NYU till he was close to 69). He held positions at NBER, and he gave seminars at top universities. He published papers in the leading journals in Europe published his books with the leading presses. He was an internationally recognized name in economics. He was the Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association. That is impressive. Why do we keep insisting that he didn't win these sort of honors? Mises played in the major leagues of professional economics, he did not play in the minors. We would all do well to follow his example. Look at what his PhD students did with their careers? Look at what his close associates where able to achieve?

Why do we try to exault Mises by downplaying his professional accomplishments? And some people try to do the same thing with Hayek. This is just crazy. Did they suffer slights? Of course. Should those who provided those slights be embarrassed? Of course. But did Mises and Hayek succeed despite the slights? OF COURSE. Distinguished Fellow for Mises, Nobel Prize for Hayek. At the time, these were the highest honors an economist could earn -- now you throw in the Clark Medal.

Mises didn't exist in the backwater and scream in the wilderness. WAKE THE F**K UP PEOPLE. He was an economist that everyone knew -- from Samuelson and Galbraith, to Friedman and Stigler, to Keynes and Lange. Each of these thinkers commented on Mises -- much negatively, but they engaged his ideas and found them important enough to try to refute. Isn't that different than being ignored.

Pro-establishment isn't the issue; Scientific isn't the issue --- it is more basic than all of this. It is actually about knowing something about the profession one is claiming to be a member of.

For the youngster out there following this, STOP. Go read something more useful, like Human Action, or Individualism and Economic Order. And understand that these are works of economic masters -- recognized to be so at the time they wrote and to this day (and beyond). These are the two greatest economic minds of the 20th century --- not everyone agrees with that assessment and that is ok. We can have a reasonable argument about this. We cannot have a reasonable argument with a nut screaming in the wilderness that all is unfair and that he is a genius because he says that he is a genius --- and even if others who are also nuts start to join in and repeat that he is a genius, it doesn't mean they are right. Instead it just means that the wilderness might be a good place to find a collection of nuts. Unfortunately, in dealing with the internet the nuts come out of hiding.

Mises and Hayek were not in the wilderness, and they didn't scream. Lets follow their lead.

And Pete wins the thread (and made me laugh and spit coffee) with this:

"Instead it just means that the wilderness might be a good place to find a collection of nuts."

Indeed, my friend.

Oh yeah, "Edmond" appears to be the perpetually rude and angry Professor van den Hauwe. You all can decide whether and what informal social sanctions are the appropriate response to such ill manners.

"Anti-establishment social scientist" and "unable to get published/cited in good journals."

Quiz: which one is cause and which one is effect?

I know which way *I* think the causality generally runs, and "political correctness" is not normally part of the explanation.

Not correct this time. I have nothing to do with Edmond. I distantiate myself from anything he said. I am not at all angry by the way, not at all... Actually when I read this I am not even sure Edmond is angry. Pete seems to be the only one with sufficient sense of humour to have grasped the joke... Steve, do you really believe I could EVER seriously do a thing like this? And you would want to sanction me? How funny!

Gene a reference from Collingwood on history really convinces me of nothing.

"Greg, it is precisely at the highest level that there is the sharpest theoretical distinction between disciplines -- in fact, the whole progress of disciplines consists in their differentiation. See Collingwood's _Idea of History_ for a book length treatment of history's effort to emancipate itself from other disciplines."

Peter -- I've agreed with your strategic point and for the most point with your point about how natural science works and how the very, very different domain of social science works (your facts a wrong to some extent, but it isn't worth debating here).

But your comments keep going off track and mischaracterizing the facts of the case.

Samuelson mentioned Mises and Hayek mostly in efforts to marginalize any attention given to them.

Samuelson often lied about the character of Hayek's work to do this.

You should be familiar with this, and I'd be happy to give you details if you are not.

A number of economists today do the same thing -- e.g. Krugman -- who mentions Hayek to marginalize him, e.g. saying that Hayek contributed nothing to the development of economic thought, and that his work is the equivalent of phlogiston theory.

Galbraith did the same thing.

Even Friedman would do it -- attacking Hayek as a "scholastic", falsely saying that Hayek shared Mises rationalist/Kantian view of the empirical content and explanatory strategy of economics.

Friedman had to know better -- he taught Hayek's "The Use of KNowledge in Society" in his graduate classes.

Scientists working across "paradigms" don't fight fair, often aren't honest, and usually can't find any reason to attempt to understand the rival position -- they are out to marginalize it, and often actively work to do so.

The history of science is full of this stuff.

It doesn't always work like this in science, but often it does.

Scientists are very competitive folks, and very "partisan" for their own paradigms.

It's a fact of scientific life.

I am not the person you believe. But he is right, I am not angry. Thanks to Pete for apparently being the only one to have grasped the joke... We now all know how rancorous a person Steve is, who wants to "sanction" others, illustrating the "smallness of academia" in all its splendor. How pity...

Note well that Samuelson is STILL lying about Hayek and working to marginalize him as an economists -- see Der Spiegel about 3 weeks ago.

"Mises and Hayek were not in the wilderness"

At various times Hayek became _very_ depressed, and seemed to think he absolutely was in the wilderness.

A few times Hayek became so depressed he couldn't work.

He later came to blame the depression on medication or on not smoking -- but if you look at it, his last depression ended immediately after he won the Nobel Prize in Economics, and his first one began immediately after the very disappointing reception of his _The Constitution of Liberty_.

Hayek felt marginalized. And his major theoretical effort -- capital theory -- certainly is and was marginalized, as was his 2nd major theoretical effort, trade cycle theory.

The guy was seriously depressed for a reason.

Note well that Hayek personally called Samuelson on his textbook lie about Hayek -- Samuelson promised to correct the problem, and then didn't.

It should also be said that Hayek believed that Samuelson's false attack on him in his textbook was doing serious damage to his reputation.

Well Edmond and LVDH will have to explain why they have identical IP addresses then, both from Brussels. Do clue me in on that, will you?

Greg, I don't expect referencing Collingwood will convince you of anything, but reading him might. You do know that, besides holding a chair in philosophy at Oxford, Collingwood was the top historian of Roman Britain of his time, don't you?


"To Gene --- I would like to know examples from the 20th century once we have established scientific communities."

Plate tectonics is 20th century. Mendel is late 19th. The Big Bang theory is from the 20th century, proposed by a Catholic priest from an obscure university in Belgium, and was widely rejected when posited. Einstein was a patent clerk (!) when he completely revolutionized physics.

Among the leading figures in 20th century philosophy of science were Kuhn (a physicist), Polanyi (a chemist), Feyerabend (an actor and playwright!), and Popper (a psychologist) -- here I'm listing what their early training was in, of course, as they all *became* philosophers!

Gene, we're talking about different things --one failure by a group of people to understand the nature and limits of history doesn't negate what I've been saying.

I've read bits of Collingwood, and once could tell you about the ins and out of the debate, and could easily get into it again -- but something relevant would have to motivate it. So far, what you've said doesn't look relevant to my points.


Newton was aware that he was upsetting assumptions about science with his new natural philosophy of motion. Newton's views of motion and the natural world and the calculus all in motion challenged alternative views -- it took years and generations to sort things out, and people are still doing so -- some names here: Leibniz, Descartes, Kant .. and those are just some of the old ones.

Also, read Kuhn on Copernicus and how his stuff cut across all sorts of domains in one swoop, challenging all sorts of different notions .. the shakeout took years and years and years.

Those are just two examples.

A modern example -- what's been going on in linguistics for the last 100 years.


Think of Newton and think of his calculus.

Newton didn't separate this into the math part and the science part and the philosophy part and the hypothetical part and the analysis part, etc., etc.

The alternatives to Newton in Leibniz and Descartes weren't put into simple boxes, this is the philosophy part, this is the science part, this is the math part, etc.

And they didn't have different colored hats they put on and took off called "philosophy", "math", "science", etc. when working on the problems found here.

For those interested, the catholic priest who invented the Big Bang theory is Georges Lemaître.
He had worked with Arthur Eddington, and also at MIT. He also has taught at the university of Louvain; I don´t know whether it is obscure as a University - compared to what? - it´s very old anyway. Greenspan holds a honorary doctorate of Leuven and I am pretty sure he is proud of it.

It is possible to take on board Pete's comments while maintaining some reservations about the gains from professionalisation and specialisation in the academic community. The point is well taken that the "black swan" meme can be overdone but beware of the guild mentality especially in discipliens that are not subjected to the control of practical tests and performance.

In engineering, architecture and agriculture things have to stand up, grow and generally meet public standards. So the disciplines that support them have to perform as well, and it is harder (but not impossible as Greg has shown) to stick in dead ends and ignore good ideas more or less regardless of source.

It is not quite the same in theology, philosophy, sociology and cultural theory, so you can have disciplines stuck in dead ends for decades (positivism, language analysis, some schools of hermeneutics, etc).

Psychology and economics are in between, like the curates egg, good and bad in patches. It was said of "scientific" psychology, that you could read a lot of it without realising that it had anything to do with living people, and something the same could be said of some fields of economics (see Boettke on where the profession has gone wrong).

On some points of detail, Feyerabend was also a singer and Popper was a cabinet maker before he was a psycholgist or a philosophy.

Well all I can say as a non-academic is that after reading Rothbard's 'What Has Government Done To Our Money' I felt like the wool had been pulled from my eyes.I guarantee that if Peter Schiff had been more forthcoming with the fact what he was espousing was based on Austrian theory of th business cycle from the start(rather than keeping it to himself and thus appearing as a visionary Swami),the interest in all things Austrian would be unprecedented.Linking a theory with actual paying results (saving wealth) is what (real) people care about.Has every legislator in Washington been sent a gratis copy of R's book?Has the link to the free online version been passed to every highschool/university bulletin board? Bernanke is a Priest.Chomsky's 'propaganda theory' relates how those who don't quite 'fit' may be passed over for more lucrative or satisfying positions.You're fighting against a State religion here and I fear that it's now very late in the day to prevent Bernanke throwing his cash Bombs and Napalm from the sky.He WILL do it.He BELIEVES it is the only way.((Maybe buy him a Diamond-encrusted Beard Trimmer and we won't see him for 6 months))? ''We're all Chinese now''

One more thing while i'm thinking about it.Maybe several Senators/Congress(wo)men in their hearts are right now dubious about passing all these bail-out bills? - What if a qualified economist (of the Austrian persuasion) was able to talk to them and give them moral support in their view?You would be opposed by other economists (very likely) - but how many 'sects' of economists are there? The public won't have a reason to believe one grouping over another.You can't PROVE your truth to them,They can't PROVE their truth to you.People will quickly see through Bernanke's and the Fed's religious trappings.I GUARANTEE that the Austrian theories fit best with the ordinary person's common sense.Your have a Bible too.Maybe Ron Paul knows of fellow legislators who would be enboldened by academic support? Maybe someone should ask him?

If you want to be a polymath it helps to start early in life, like John Stuart Mill and R G Collingwood. Those who would like to share Greg's enthusiasm for Collingwood can find most of his books on line at Questia, including his autobiography. http://www.questia.com/read/24152240?title=An%20Autobiography

"UNTIL I was thirteen years old I lived at home and was taught by my father...It was his doing that I began Latin at four and Greek at six; but my own that I began, about the same time, to read everything I could find about the natural sciences, especially geology, astronomy, and physics; to recognize rocks, to know the stars, and to understand the working of pumps and locks and other mechanical appliances up and down the house. It was my father who gave me lessons in ancient and modern history, illustrated with relief maps in papier-mâaché made by boiling down newspapers in a saucepan; but my first lesson in what I now regard as my own subject, the history of thought, was the discovery, in a friend's house a few miles away, of a battered seventeenthcentury book, wanting cover and title-page, and full of strange doctrines about meteorology and geology and planetary motions. It must have been a compendium of Descartes' Principia, to judge by what I recall of its statements about vortices; I was about nine when I found it, and already knew enough about the corresponding modern theories to appreciate the contrast which it offered." So a historian of thought was born.

It also helps to find the best people early, so after you encounter Ernst Gombrich, Rene Wellek and the Buhlers {Karl and Charlotte] (for example) you will be less impressed by Derrida, Foucault, Habermas and Gadamer. It also helps to find Ian D Suttie as an alternative to Freud.

Pete asks, what would be wrong with an Austrian at an Ivy or Ivy equivalent school? Indeed!

But young scholars here should know that there are now TWO tenure-track political science professors at Yale who were trained (by me) in the "ignorance dimension" that I got straight from Hayek. A third recent Ph.D. with the same training has a post-doc at Yale.

All three of these young scholars chose political science specifically to do research on "ignorance" in politics. And even though I got my Ph.D. at Yale, this convergence of my former students there is coincidental, not due to my "pull" there--I have none.

I myself was tenure-track at Barnard/Columbia before resigning to edit Critical Review full time.

Bottom line: in political science, there is no neoclassical orthodoxy standing in your way.

In political science, you can study politics OR political economy--a sub-subdiscipline--and do *value-relevant* (to free-marketeers) research without consigning yourself to a lifetime of academic struggle, without being a mathematician, and without putting your real intellectual interests on hold so you can do cutting-edge technical research that gets you into the top journals.

You can have the life of the mind without starving your body, you can teach great students, and you can advance Austrian ideas.

Please feel free to contact me if you want to explore this possibility.

Jeffrey Friedman
[email protected]

The comments to this entry are closed.